Marketing for Accountants: The 5 Most Dangerous Myths
By Patrick McLoughlin
Myth Number One: All Clients want is the Cheapest possible Fee
Don’t confuse cost for value. If you struggle to explain what is special about your service, how it is better than your competitors, then naturally it will boil down to cost.
People will always pay a premium for better. IPhones cost more than most other mobile phones, but they still dominate the marketplace. There is an enormous market for you if you can deliver more for more. Understand your ideal clients better, find out what you can do that will make them even happier. They will pay for it and they will reward you with their loyalty.
I was sitting in a client’s reception earlier this week when I saw a folder marked ‘Client Testimonials.’ A couple of pages in I found a letter that said something along the lines of: “Before working with you we had always changed our accountant every couple of years. Not because they had done anything wrong, they just hadn’t done enough to keep us.”
Needless to say, this accountant is a particularly smart man who finds out what value means to his clients and delivers it.
If you can't demonstrate Value the outlook is grim
Myth Number Two: The key to Marketing is Increasing Awareness
Or as one Partner told me: “We are sticking to the plan our marketing is not about a Return on Investment.” Ask yourself how increasing awareness is going to grow our client base, our fee revenue?
Marketing for accountants is not about pretty brochures and flashy websites. It is all about ROI, Return On Investment: How much new business revenue you can generate for every pound you invest.
So don’t sponsor the local roundabout. Sure lots of people will tell you they have seen your name out and about, but what has it done for your bottom line? If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.
Myth Number Three: Your Marketing should Appeal to You
Or, as it is often phrased, “that just isn’t our style.”
Just because you don’t like receiving cold calls, emails, free reports etc, it does not mean they won’t work for you. Unless you match the profile of your ideal client, your opinion, whilst interesting, is irrelevant.
The principal holds true on website copy. We all love to read and write about our businesses, our backgrounds, and ourselves. Sadly, our potential clients have zero interest in us. They care only about what we can do for them.
Now go and read the home page on your website. Is it written to please you or help your ideal clients?
Myth Number Four: The Best decisions are made by a Marketing Committee
Accountants tend to be smart people. Naturally, partners and managers want to be involved in growing the business and we want them to. But the more people involved the safer and less innovative your marketing will be.
As Mike Schultz and John E. Doerr put it in their excellent book Professional Services Marketing: ‘It’s kind of like getting 20 people to agree on the same dinner to eat. So many interesting possibilities get excluded for this reason or that. Everyone ends up with macaroni and cheese and a wedge of iceburg lettuce posing as a salad.’
I am not suggesting you exclude your team from marketing decisions. To get their full support and buy-in they have to feel a sense of ownership. To find out how click on the link Accounting Marketing and read about Straw Man plans, near the bottom of the page.
Myth Number Five: The Best Measure of Return on Marketing Investment is first year fees
If you intend to trade for more than the next 12-months, it makes no sense to measure your return over the short term.
Understanding and improving the Lifetime value of your average client is the foundation of effective marketing for accountants. I have had Partners turn down marketing proposals because they target a return of £2-£3 for every pound in first year fees.
They complain the return isn’t good enough, “we won’t even break even in the first 12-months.” Yet how long do you retain a client on average, 5-6 or 7 years? So if a £1,000 investment returns £2,000 in year one, it will earn you £14,000 over a 7-year lifetime.
That is a return of £14 for every £1 invested. Or look at it this way, £1,000 in new revenue will cost you just over £71 in marketing fees.